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S. Korea condemns North's 'cessation' of inter-Korean humanitarian exchanges

All Headlines 22:15 April 01, 2016

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea condemned North Korea on Friday for "politicizing" the inter-Korean humanitarian issue of reuniting families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War after the communist country said it will cease the humanitarian exchange program with the South.

North Korea's Red Cross issued a statement earlier in the day blaming President Park Geun-hye for a suspension of the family reunion program.

"The North-South relations have been put to a total collapse by the Park Geun-hye group's frantic moves for escalating confrontation," the statement said, adding that this resulted in "totally blocking the reunions."

"As long as the Cheong Wa Dae is bossed by traitor and confrontation fanatic Park Geun-hye ... there can never be any humanitarian exchange including the reunions of separated families and relatives," the statement also said.

Immediately responding to the accusation, South Korea's unification ministry condemned North Korea and pledged that it will continue to pursue family reunions.

South Korea "expresses deep regrets over North Korea's attempts to use the issue as a source of political confrontation and to disparage our consistent efforts to solve the separated family issue," the ministry said in its statement.

"Our government's stance remains unchanged that we will try to make progress and put the top priority on the separated family issue," it said.

The two Koreas had held 20 rounds of the humanitarian event to reunite families who parted from their parents and siblings in the three-year civil war, mostly around two traditional Korean holiday seasons.

But they skipped the event for this year's Lunar New Year amid escalating inter-Korean tensions.

In South Korea alone, more than 130,000 people have applied to join the family reunions, with nearly half of them having died of old age.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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